How To Teach Allegory and Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

Teach the connection between allegory and symbolism in Lord of the Flies with this step-by-step lesson that includes a free download at the bottom of the page. Short on time? Jump to the free download here!

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Allegory and Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

William Golding’s fictional adventure story has been taught in high school English classes for decades. It is known for its timeless themes and the author’s beautiful descriptions of the setting, establishment of character types, and recurring examples of symbolism.

Because Golding’s novel is an allegory, symbolism is heavily integrated. Each symbol contributes to overall messages about humanity, power and influence, and good and evil. 

Students can enjoy formulating conclusions about the meanings behind items in the novel such as the conch shell, Piggy’s glasses, or a desperate source of conflict among the boys –  the fire

However, understanding these symbols and the concept of allegory can be difficult if students have not worked with the ideas before; this lesson will give you all you need to teach the concepts to students even if they are completely unfamiliar with the ideas.

Overview of the Allegory and Symbolism Lesson

In the English Teacher Vault pacing guide, students will be close to the novel’s midpoint when they reach this lesson. Because students will have already engaged in discussion and chapter reading, they will be familiar with the characters, setting, and important objects.

This lesson details direct instruction on the concepts of symbolism and allegory and how symbols are intentional choices pointing to an overall message. Use the warm-up activity to refresh ideas of symbols in daily life, media, or literature. Then, allow students the opportunity to apply their knowledge in a symbolism activity with a short animated film.

After viewing the film clip, students will apply their symbolism analysis to selected characters, objects, and instances in the novel on the provided handout.

Check out the free resources for this lesson at the end of this post!

Shows a slide that has a warm-up activity on it to access students previous knowledge of symbols and symbolism.

How to Teach Allegory and Symbolism in Lord of the Flies

At this point in the novel, take a deeper look at allegory and symbolism. Students will understand the primary conflicts and emerging themes thus far and will be ready to analyze further.

As you begin this lesson, refresh students on the big ideas presented in the unit’s essential questions.

Teach the Terms

Some students may have already been introduced to the literary elements of symbolism and allegory. For many high schoolers, however, this will be their first extended opportunity to analyze these elements in a novel-length text. Lots of opportunities with multiple types of literature and media will help students gain confidence in their analysis!

Use the warm-up exercise in the slides to help students identify objects in books or films that might represent a deeper meaning. Symbolism can be a tricky concept for some students to grasp because it can be very abstract. Using real-world examples helps to make the ideas more concrete.

Guide students through the slides as they take notes on allegory, symbolism, and common literature symbols on the prepared handout. 

Picture of a slide from the lesson plan that has the term allegory on it and its definition.

Identify Symbolism in Short Film

When teaching a new skill set, the concepts are often easier to grasp with shorter examples. 

On this day, you will show the Pixar clip, La Luna. Because the animated clip does not include any dialogue, it is a great resource to get students to focus on objects, setting details, and characters’ actions to identify any symbolism.

Students will watch the film looking for any clues that might signify a deeper message. You may wish to play the clip twice – once to understand the storyline and a second time to watch for symbolism.

Now, allow students plenty of time to discuss their ideas. Ask: What overall idea(s) did the symbols imply? Students can greatly benefit from the opportunity to hear multiple ideas, verbally process, and expand their thinking with partners or small groups.

picture of a slide on a computer that tells students to watch the short film "La luna" and consider the symbols in the film.

Apply Symbolism to Lord of the Flies

Students will spend the remainder of the class period applying symbolism analysis to selected characters, objects, and instances in Lord of the Flies. Supporting analysis with text evidence is an essential skill for all levels of secondary English and students will practice this here.

You may have previously pointed out some of these symbols during the reading. Remind students of these as you transition to the provided symbolism chart. Students will use this to record text evidence that supports the deeper meanings of each example.

Differentiate this activity for all your class needs! Meet a variety of levels by:

  • Modeling – Choose one item from the chart to model for the class. Guide students by thinking aloud about the item or character and asking for evidence from the text. Display your written analysis in the final column as an example.
  • Grouping – Students can complete the chart individually, in pairs, or in groups. If time is scarce, jigsaw each item on the chart to each member in a small group. Allow them to discuss their analysis together at the end.
  • Scaffolding – If needed, edit the charts to include text evidence quotes, chapters, or page numbers for emerging learners or ESL students. You can also provide sentence stems for the final column. 
  • Extending – For advanced students, provide a blank chart and ask students to list the symbolic images, objects, or characters. Extend the activity by directing them to write a well-developed paragraph with embedded text evidence explaining one example of symbolism.

Finally, encourage students to chat about additional symbolic elements that could signify further ideas. Add these to charts and debrief ideas as a class. Throughout this activity, remind students to think about the overarching message of the novel as an allegory.

picture of handout that goes with the lesson plan where students are required to jot down notes about symbolism and allegory

Free Symbolism Resources

Want to try this lesson with your English class? Download the free slides and handout to teach allegory and symbolism in Lord of the Flies. Your students will love the opportunities for discussion and hands-on application with the film clip and the novel.

If you’d like the editable versions of these handouts plus the entire 4 week Lord of the Flies unit, you can get all of that instantly when you join our growing membership of English teachers at The English Teacher Vault. Here are those free downloads:

Lesson Plan

Guided Notes

Symbolism Handout

Editable Slideshow

More Literary Analysis Resources

The English Teacher Vault contains everything you need to teach an engaging novel unit for Lord of the Flies. Additionally, find more guided lessons to teach literary elements in each of the complete literature units accessible to Vault members. Join the English Teacher Vault today for a wealth of resources and a community of secondary English teachers!

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